Month: April 2014

House Announces Comprehensive Autism Legislation

Bill provides enhanced education and financial resources, distinguishes Massachusetts as a national leader

Rep. Josh Cutler joined his colleagues in the House of Representatives to pass comprehensive autism legislation that will help foster independence for autistic individuals and provide their families with financial tools for long-term planning.

The bill permanently establishes a state Autism Commission and creates new programs and enhances resources for individuals, families, and education professionals. The Autism Commission will be responsible for making recommendations and monitoring the implementation of policies to improve autism care in the Commonwealth. 

“I’m incredibly proud of this innovative, forward-looking bill,” House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo (D-Winthrop) said. “Massachusetts has become a national leader in regards to supporting those with autism, particularly through our 2010 insurance legislation, and I believe this bill is the next, crucial step to make Massachusetts the leader in caring for residents confronting autism.”

“With this legislation, we set forth a comprehensive proposal to provide additional services to individuals with disabilities,” said House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Brian S. Dempsey (D – Haverhill).  “By implementing these changes that require additional teacher training, extend state services, and encourage financial planning, we recognize the unique needs of residents with autism and provide them with the flexibility necessary to meet those challenges. Our focus is on increasing access to quality services that provide the best foundation of care for both children and adults with autism.”

“I am grateful to the Speaker for his strong leadership resulting in this important Autism legislation,” said Representative Garrett Bradley (D-Hingham), First Division Chair.  “I am particularly pleased with the inclusion of the ABLE program, which will help to ease legitimate worries families have regarding their children’s ability to transition to more independent lives as they grow older.   With similar legislation languishing in Congress, we in Massachusetts have the chance to be among the first states to take action on this vital issue.”

One provision, widely referred to as the ABLE program (Achieving a Better Life Experience), is designed to encourage and assist families with financial planning for individuals with disabilities. Modeled on a federal bill pending in Congress, the tax-advantaged savings accounts can be used to help plan for disability-related expenses, enabling parents of children with disabilities, as well as older individuals with disabilities, to pay for long- term costs.  Contributions to the account grow tax-free and distributions from the account for qualified disability expenses are also tax-free.  Eligible costs include expenses for education, medical and dental care, job training, housing, transportation, financial management, assistive technology, home improvements and other uses. 

The legislation also ensures that as the number of students with autism increases, school districts and teachers are able to provide effective education. The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) will develop a training program to help teachers educate those with autism in a manner that is individualized and allows them to stay in classrooms, if appropriate.  The bill will also expand the IQ-based eligibility requirement for adult services provided by the Department of Developmental Services (DDS) so that these services can be effectively extended to those requiring care.

Commentary: Time to end the dash to stash cash

By Rep. Josh Cutler and Nathan Proctor

Benjamin Franklin once famously wrote that nothing is inevitable in life, except for death and taxes. Franklin, however, never met General Electric, Boeing, Verizon, Pepco and Duke Energy.

What these companies have in common is that they are among the 26 Fortune 500 companies that paid no federal income taxes during a five-year period from 2008 through 2012, despite pocketing a combined profit of $170 billion. As the rest of us file our taxes by this month, that’s tough to swallow.

For some multinational corporations a favorite scheme to dodge taxes is to move profits made here to offshore tax havens in places like the Cayman Islands that levy little to no tax. Stashing cash overseas and leaving the rest of us to pick up the tab is an affront to all hard-working American taxpayers, but especially our small business community, the real economic engine for our economy.

Small businesses already face plenty of challenges, we should not ask them to compete in a rigged marketplace that favors a few corporate giants that can afford to exploit our tax code in this manner. Local businesses aren’t setting up foreign subsidiaries to skirt tax codes, they’re paying their fair share for the services we all benefit from.

We think it’s time to level the playing field and help our Bay State businesses. Let’s close these loopholes so that everyone plays by the same rules. The good news is, we don’t need to wait for Congress, we can take action right now in Massachusetts.

A bi-partisan amendment to close the “waters’ edge” loophole was filed this week to our state budget. If adopted, this measure would ensure that multinational companies doing business in Massachusetts would no longer be able to dodge state taxes by sending profits to a sham shell company located in a country where they don’t have to pay tax. According to a recent report by MASSPIRG, this would recoup $79 million for the state budget currently being lost to tax haven abuse.

This simple reform is gaining steam around the country and it’s time Massachusetts took it up. Already, Oregon and Montana have closed the loophole. Maine, Minnesota and Rhode Island have legislation moving as well. That’s $79 million that could help pay for much needed repairs to our roads and bridges, boost local aid or invest in early education.

Massachusetts has world-class institutions, a highly educated workforce and top notch benefits for our veterans and seniors. These are services we all pay for through our tax dollars. When a few large corporations that profit under the umbrella of these services but shirk their responsibility to pay for them, that shifts more of this burden on us, resulting either in higher taxes or reduced services.  

Small businesses already face plenty of challenges, we should not ask them to compete in a rigged marketplace that favors a few corporate giants that can afford to exploit our tax code in this manner.

No job was ever created by shifting profits to these offshore tax havens. It’s time to promote innovation and creativity in the marketplace, not in our tax code.

Rep. Josh S. Cutler is State Representative for the Sixth Plymouth District and a member of the Joint Committee on Community Development and Small Business.

Nathan Proctor is state director of Massachusetts Fair Share, a statewide non-profit advocacy group that believes everyone should get a fair shot, do and pay a fair share, and play by the same rules.

House Passes Legislation to Increase Aid for Families of Public Safety Employees Killed in the Line of Duty

Rep. Josh Cutler joined his colleagues in the Massachusetts House of Representatives to pass legislation that increases the benefits for families of public safety employees killed in the line of duty from $100,000 to $150,000.

This change represents the first increase in the benefit since 1994. It will retroactively apply to the families of Lieutenant Edward Walsh and Firefighter Michael Kennedy who were killed while fighting a fire on Beacon Street last week, and Plymouth Police Officer Gregg Maloney who was killed in the line of duty on April 1, 2014. These funds are included in a supplemental budget.

“Every day, I am awed and grateful for the sacrifices firefighters, police and their families make for us,” House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo (D-Winthrop) said. “As we pray for those who perished, their families and the first responders they served with, we must ensure the families of these courageous individuals receive the support they so rightly deserve. I’m proud we were able to pass this increase and pledge to honor their memory through our work on Beacon Hill.”   

“My district was hit especially hard by last week’s tragic fire,” said Representative Ed Coppinger (D-Boston), Vice Chair of the House Committee on Steering, Policy and Scheduling. “Everyday firefighters from across the state risk their lives to keep us safe. Today we had the opportunity to show them that we will take care of their families when they make the ultimate sacrifice. I thank Speaker DeLeo for his strong leadership on pushing this forward so quickly.